The Postojna Cave, in southwestern Slovenia, is home of one of the most curious species in the world, the olm, a blind salamander with a lifespan of more than a hundred years.
Found all over southeastern Europe, the olm is an amphibious creature that only lays its eggs one or twice a decade, and now at the Postojna Cave, which doubles as a popular tourist site, there are signs that the eggs may soon hatch.
Such a thing would be an extraordinary boon to biologists because it’s so difficult to find, let alone these eggs hatch in the wild.
“In the wild, we never find eggs or larvae. They are probably hidden within some very specific localities within the cave systems,” Dusan Jelic, a fellow at the Zoological Society of London, told the BBC.
Observing these eggs hatch would help scientists better understand how olms reproduce.
“It is very significant because there is not a lot of data about anything, [relating to] the reproduction of this group of animals,” Jelic said.
Back in 2013, another olm laid a batch of eggs in the cave, but they were all eaten by other olms, a common behavior for the species.
This time, the caretakers are taking extra precaution, taking the other olms out of the aquarium in the cave, and covering up the tank where the olm resides to block sunlight from potentially damaging the eggs.
The olm, the only vertebrate cave dweller in Europe, was first mentioned in a 1689 book that described them as “baby dragons,” in reference to old folklore.